Andrew Driver

MLS half-day trade window roundup: Very busy day as Timbers, KC extremely active

Leave a comment

There was a decent amount of movement between MLS clubs during Monday’s abbreviated trade window, not all of it trade-related.

And it’s important to note that the trades may not all have hit the news yet, as the deadline for trades to be completed was 1pm ET. They could be announced afterwards, and the trade window reopens after Wednesday’s expansion draft for Orlando City and New York City.

[ MLS: New match ball | On Landon ]

Portland sent Michael Harrington to Colorado for allocation money, then turned around and sent allocation money to Real Salt Lake for Nat Borchers. The well-liked bearded Borchers, 33, started 32 of 32 games for RSL this season, while the 28-year-old Harrington made 21 starts for the Timbers.

Portland picked up four more players, adding Ghanaian goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasay and Colombia right winger Dairon Asprilla to go with an official purchase of Alvas Powell from his Jamaican club. They also picked up Brazilian defender Jeanderson Salvador Pereira from Santa Rita.

Kwarasay is an eyebrow-raiser, having 21 caps for Ghana and coming from strong Norwegian side Stromsgodset.

Sporting KC went nuts, dealing for Bernardo Anor from Columbus and sending Aurelien Colin and CJ Sapong packing to Orlando City and Philadelphia, respectively.

Columbus has sent defender Josh Williams to New York City FC for allocation money. The 6-foot-2 Cleveland State product saw his playing time dip dramatically under Gregg Berhalter, going from 27 to 14 games played. NYCFC also picked up an international roster slot for 2015 and 2016 from DC United for allocation money.

Philly sent the rights of Amobi Okugo to Orlando City as well. He’s been expected to leave for Europe but could be tempted to stay and play with Collin and Kaka. Orlando is not acting like its just a rights move, and also picked up international roster slots from DC for 2015 and 2016 for allocation money.

DC United picked up defender Andrew Driver and a fourth-round pick in 2016 from Houston in exchange for goalkeeper Joe Willis and defender Samuel Inkoom. The Tally Hall deal is also now official.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia decided to part ways with bruising 33-year-old forward Conor Casey.

MLS playoff focus: Notes on the Houston Dynamo ahead of Saturday’s first leg against Sporting KC

1 Comment

Ahead of Saturday’s first leg of this Eastern Conference finals series, here are the must-knows about Dominic Kinnear’s Houston Dynamo. A trip to MLS Cup 2013 is on the line. (Saturday’s match kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, and can also been seen on NBC Sports Live Extra)

  • Any gas left in the Dynamo tank?

Houston is playing its 6th match in 17 days, a fairly ridiculous (and certainly taxing) run of games. Players aren’t complaining, and their mantra of “We can rest in the post-season” is an honest and logical response. Still, there has been so much travel and so many tough matches (with a lot riding on every one) that you really have to wonder about the physical state of the team.

Especially as manager Dominic Kinnear has done so little rotating in the starting lineup. He really didn’t have a choice since the team was fighting so hard to go through in Champions League, to get into the playoffs and then to advance past Montreal and then New York in those playoffs.

The team finished 120 minutes against New York on Wednesday night, flew back into Texas the next day and was right back on the practice field for a light workout Friday, just 24 hours before the weekend kickoff.

“All the guys are feeling like they played 120 minutes two nights ago, so it’s been a difficult and pretty quick turnaround,” U.S. international midfielder Brad Davis said Friday via national conference call from Houston. “It is what it is. Both teams have to handle it. I think it’s really going to be a mental thing more than a physical thing at times. I think the guys are a little bit sore, but I don’t think they care about it too much. We’re looking forward to the game.”

(MORE: PST match preview, Sporting KC at Houston)

  • Ashe suspended, plus yellow card warning for the Dynamo

Houston left back Corey Ashe will sit out after collecting his second booking of the playoffs Wednesday in New York.

Two yellow cards in the playoffs means the offender sits out the following match. Right winger Boniek Garcia is the only other Houston man on caution warning. His would be an enormous loss, however, as the Dynamo’s most creative player. A killer pass from the Honduran international set the wheels in motion for Omar Cummings’ series-winner Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

Remember, starting Jermaine Taylor is already missing along Houston’s back line. Eric Brunner has filled in for the Jamaican international.

Most likely replacement for Ashe: Mike Chabala, who has played sparingly for the Orange this year. Kinnear could also move Warren Creavalle there, as the versatile second-year man has spent some time at BBVA in the outside back position. That would require a midfield makeover, however, most likely with Davis sliding inside and Andrew Driver taking Davis wide role on the left side of Houston’s 4-4-2.

Or, could this be a way to get Omar Cummings, scorer of two critical goals off the bench against New York, into the starting 11? That would mean dropping Giles Barnes into the midfield for Creavalle.

  • Crunching numbers, and getting things right at the right time

Everyone knows Dominic Kinnear-coached teams know how to win in the playoffs. But it’s more than that; Kinnear’s teams know how to get their stuff together generally at the right time of year.

Consider that since a bad loss at home to New York back in mid-September, the Dynamo is 6-1-3 in MLS regular season and playoff matches.

Speaking of records, and since we cannot do one of these without mentioning Kinnear’s fantastic playoff record – especially since it keeps getting better in the current post-season – let’s get this over with.

Kinnear is now 14-7-4 in playoff matches with Houston. (Does he move ahead of Bruce Arena as “King of all MLS Playoffs” since the Galaxy is now out of this thing?)

And finally this: Kinnear’s team is 8-1-1 in playoff games in Houston since moving to South Texas from San Jose in 2006.

MLS Playoff Focus: Notes on Houston ahead of Thursday’s meeting with Montreal

1 Comment

Ahead of Thursday’s single elimination playoff between Houston and Montreal, here are the most-knows about the Dynamo ahead of the 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff at BBVA Compass Stadium (NBCSN):

  • Jermaine Taylor is out

Even if he doesn’t have the global soccer chops of Alessandro Nesta – Montreal’s veteran Italian center back, who is also out for the match – Houston will definitely miss center back Jermaine Taylor.

The Jamaican international is one of Major League Soccer’s underrated men, quietly and steadily going about the defensive business around BBVA Compass Stadium, a 26-game starter both of the last two years. Taylor has the right blend of speed, toughness, determination and instincts that make him hard to beat.

Changing center backs is hardly what you want when facing 20-goal-scorer Marco Di Vaio, who rides the line and will be caught offside a few times – but is always a threat to sneak in behind the back four. Fortunately for Houston, Eric Brunner does not represent a huge dropoff alongside longtime central presence Bobby Boswell, with 19 starts of his own over the last two years.

  • Warren Creavalle and Ricardo Clark manning the middle

The Dynamo caught MLS off guard with the late-summer trade of Adam Moffat, a relative midfield fixture in orange over the last two years, to Seattle. What the Dynamo was really saying with this move: young Warren Creavalle is ready.

With Creavalle and Ricardo Clark (pictured), the Dynamo midfield becomes more mobile and athletic, able to cover far more ground. The Dynamo midfield was the difference earlier this month as Houston topped Montreal at BBVA, 1-0. (Of course, Patrice Bernier wasn’t available for the Impact; he’s healthy and available for Thursday, a huge boost for the visitors.)

Creavalle is a second-year pro out of Central Florida.

  • Dynamo options off the bench

Houston’s midfield depth is the envy of most MLS sides. On the flanks, especially, Dominic Kinnear has good options off the bench.

Andrew Driver never found a starting spot with the Orange – but that has a lot to do with Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia, who would start on the outside for a lot of clubs. Driver is a young, left-sided natural who likes taking on defenders.

Former Colorado Rapids MLS Cup winner Omar Cummings can also play out wide, and provides an extra element of speed out there if the Dynamo needs a change-up late in the match.

  • Houston in playoff games in Houston … pretty darn good

Kinnear’s team is 8-1 in playoff games in Houston since moving to South Texas from San Jose in 206.

The one loss still stands as one of the real shockers of MLS playoff history, a 3-0 thumping from New York, which had the right matchups (Dane Richards tormenting the Dynamo left side) on the right day and prevailed 3-0 en route to an MLS Cup appearance.

(More on MLS playoffs: Previewing Montreal Impact at Houston Dynamo)

Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy back for another CONCACAF Champions League effort

Leave a comment

It was not so long ago that the Houston Dynamo and LA Galxy were front and center in discussions of the 2013 CONCACAF Champions League contenders.

Dominic Kinnear’s Dynamo had a 1-0 lead in the March two-legged quarterfinal series against Mexico’s Santos, still with plenty of work ahead but needing only a draw to advance.

Things fell apart down in Torreon, Mexico, however, as they have done so many times for MLS sides. Santos prevailed, 3-0, and the men in  Dynamo orange were left to absorb the sting (and hopefully the lessons) of opportunity lost.

L.A. went even further in the annual, regional club competition, reaching a semifinal series against Monterrey. Bruce Arena’s team stacked a lot of emotional eggs into that CCL basket but still fell by a 3-1 aggregate result to the eventual champs.

The Dynamo and Galaxy hope to put those teachings to good use tonight as they join Champions League play.

Houston meets W Connection from Trinidad and Tobago’s TT Pro League. The match kicks off at 9 p.m. CT on Fox Sports 1.

Bruce Arena’s Galaxy host Costa Rican club Cartaginés at the StubHub Center. Kickoff for that one, on Fox Sports Plus, is set for 10 p.m. ET.

Houston and L.A. are the fourth and fifth MLS teams to begin their part of Champions League play, joining Sporting Kansas City, San Jose and Montreal, all of whom launched their accounts last week.

I’ve been touting the Dynamo’s midfield depth all year; it will get a test now, having played in the Houston heat on Saturday and with a match coming up in Canada this weekend against Montreal. That’s three matches in three countries over eight days, if you’re counting.

Calen Carr and Andrew Driver (pictured) are nearing full fitness, so that will surely help. Dynamo veteran Brian Ching, for one, certainly sounds confident.

Depending on the lineup Arena chooses, his team should handle Cartagines, a team without many trophies in the case.

MLS preview: Chicago Fire at Houston Dynamo

Leave a comment
  • Brad Davis is getting healthier for Houston, but may not be ready to start
  • A striker still has not scored for the Dynamo since May 8
  • Chris Rolfe had two goals last week in Chicago’s 4-1 win over D.C. United

Fortress BBVA just isn’t what it used to.

That doesn’t mean the Dynamo’s downtown ground, just 14 months old, is now easy pickings for opposition operations. The crowds there are boisterous, the relentless humidity in South Texas is never accommodating and Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear likes to keep the field tight, all the better for his players and their familiarity with how to make it work.

But … the former Dynamo unblemished mark disappeared last month, so the former BBVA mystique has evaporated into the thick Houston air, at least. That has to be helpful as Chicago comes to town for a 9 p.m. ET kickoff on the NBC Sports Network. (The stat-packed official league preview is here.)

Before a tight victory over Philadelphia on July 6 (in the team’s most recent MLS match at home) the Dynamo had suffered a draw and two losses at BBVA in the most recent matches there. The string of bad results fell in stark contrast to the 36-game unbeaten streak at home, which stretched back to June of 2011 and the days spent passing, trapping and shooting inside Robertson Stadium at the University of Houston.

The missing element in June and through July has been scoring from forwards. Will Bruin and Giles Barnes struck back on May 8, but the Dynamo strikers have fired blanks from there. All forwards, that is. Goals by midfielders Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark (both pictured) have guided victories lately, but teams simply cannot win over a longer stretch without production from the men paid to score goals.

Speaking of those men: Mike Magee keeps scoring for the Fire, and keeps building his case for league MVP. The veteran attacker has six goals in eight league appearances since the newsy trade from L.A. in May. He has nine in all competitions for Chicago. Further, with 12 goals in MLS this year, Magee trails the league’s leading scorer in 2013 (Vancouver’s Camilo) by just one.

Chris Rolfe had only two goals a week ago, but enjoyed a two-goal breakout in the Fire’s 4-1 dismantling of woeful D.C. United last Saturday at Toyota Park.

“The difference tonight was just finishing our chances,” Fire manager Frank Klopas said of the big victory over United.

It might be tougher to get those chances without Dilly Duka’s ability to break down defense from the wing and supply the centering passes. Duka is out with a groin injury.

On the other hand, they should get Patrick Nyarko back; the speedy flanker was out last week with strep throat. Presumably, Nyarko will run the right side with Joel Lindpere, coming successfully off his first start in a month, patrolling the left.

Speaking of the left: the Dynamo should soon have a fully fit Brad Davis to compete for time in the team’s already stacked midfield.  The U.S. international missed almost a month with a hamstring injury, but did play 24 minutes in Wednesday’s friendly win over Stoke City.

Most likely, Davis will come off the bench Saturday, but sooner or later it’s easy to see some type of rotation developing among Davis, central men Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark and wide attackers Oscar Boniek Garcia and Andrew Driver.